Prognostication of invasive ampullary adenocarcinomas (AACs) and their stratification into appropriate management categories have been highly challenging owing to a lack of well-established predictive parameters. In colorectal cancers, recent studies have shown that tumor budding confers a worse prognosis and correlates significantly with nodal metastasis and recurrence; however, this has not been evaluated in AAC.
To investigate the prevalence, significance, and clinical correlations of tumor budding in AAC, 244 surgically resected, stringently defined, invasive AAC were analyzed for tumor budding---defined as the presence of more than or equal to 5 isolated single cancer cells or clusters composed of fewer than 5 cancer cells per field measuring 0.785 mm2 using a 20× objective lens in the stroma of the invasive front. The extent of the budding was then further classified as “high” if there were greater than or equal to 3 budding foci and as “low” if there were <3 budding foci or no budding focus.
One hundred ninety-four AACs (80%) were found to be high-budding and 50 (20%) were low-budding. When the clinicopathologic features and survival of the 2 groups were compared, the AACs with high-budding had larger invasion size (19 mm vs. 13 mm; P<0.001), an unrecognizable/absent preinvasive component (57% vs. 82%; P<0.005), infiltrative growth (51% vs. 2%; P<0.001), nonintestinal-type histology (72% vs. 46%; P<0.001), worse differentiation (58% vs. 10%; P<0.001), more lymphatic (74% vs. 10%; P<0.001), and perineural invasion (28% vs. 2%; P<0.001); more lymph node metastasis (44% vs. 17%; P<0.001), higher T-stage (T3 and T4) (42% vs. 10%; P<0.001), and more aggressive behavior (mean survival: 50 mo vs. 32 mo; 3-year and 5-year survival rates: 93% vs. 41% and 68% vs. 24%, respectively; P<0.001). Furthermore, using a multivariable Cox regression model, tumor budding was found to be an independent predictor of survival (P=0.01), which impacts prognosis (hazard ratio: 2.6) even more than T-stage and lymph node metastasis (hazard ratio: 1.9 and 1.8, respectively).
In conclusion, tumor budding is frequently encountered in AAC. High-budding is a strong independent predictor of overall survival, with a prognostic correlation stronger than the 2 established parameters: T-stage and lymph node metastasis. Therefore, budding should be incorporated into surgical pathology reports for AAC.